The joy of getting lost
As Yoda would say: Enjoy the process, you should
Enjoying Out Of Office? You can buy me a coffee here.
I hope you were able enjoy the bank holiday, and, for those of you who had to work, I hope you're able to take time out elsewhere - and at least you'll be able to avoid pass-agg flag-waving and people asking why your nails aren’t red, white and blue when you do.
After some really grumbly newsletters, this month I wanted to focus on a positive vibe I'm nurturing: enjoying the process. (Such growth right here, love this for me).
Perhaps it's the fact that I've been meditating every day for nearly a year now (I'm basically Yoda) but I've been feeling quite philosophical about work recently. I'm currently in the very early stages of pulling together a book proposal, and have been enjoying the 'no pressure' stage when no one else is involved. I can dip in and out of research and while, obviously, it would be nice to just be free to do that rather than the bread-and-butter work required of me, it's still a treat to have a project of my own to nurture.
For a while I didn't dare to tell anyone about it. I've had a few fledgling projects that I've written or spoken about that didn't end up going anywhere, and I felt a bit embarrassed about them to be honest. It's hard when you run into a friend and they say: 'How's such-and-such going?' And you feel you have to confess the myriad reasons why you bailed on it. But, in fact, those abandoned projects still have their own merits, as was pointed out to me recently by Penny from My So Called Career.
A book idea I had over a decade ago lead to me honing interview skills that have seen me in good stead, and paved the way for a successful project I later started (and even won a prize for). A collaborative campaign that fizzled out helped me learn to work in partnership and be less of a control freak. Sometimes working on something will help you realise that it’s not an area or way of working that suits you at all - and that’s great too, it helps you get clearer about what you do want. Just because projects don't always make it to the finish line, it doesn't mean they were a waste of time and energy.
The other common fear about working on something big is that completing it might not bring the results you want: shedloads of cash, an amazing publishing deal, so many awards you have to cordon off a specific ‘trophy room’ and make everyone who visits you house walk past it when they need to use the toilet…
This issue was written about honestly and beautifully by Anna Codrea-Rado in a recent newsletter about the aftermath of publishing a book. Anna had hoped that certain doors would be open, that work opportunities would come to her, but the reality was that not much changed (despite the book being really great, FYI). However, her ultimate take-away is that it was still worth writing.
Some pieces of work will be life-changing, and others won't have the impact you've hoped for, or even make it past the finish line - but what is the one thing you absolutely can control? How you think about the process.
When you put down your expectations and projections, you can just relax into the work itself.
So, without cash, opportunities and accolades guaranteed….Why am I trying to write this book? Ultimately, it's because there’s a topic that interests me, and I haven't found anything quite like it on the market already. I am a naturally inquisitive person, and I have questions I want answered. I like connecting with people who are interested in these same areas - I get a kick out of an interview that feels like a chat, and learning from people who have been trying to answer these same questions for a lot longer than I have. When I'm not all in my head about my self-doubt and ego anxieties, it's actually pretty fun.
No one actually cares if I finish this book. No one cares that I'm working on it at all. It's arrogant to think that anyone is invested in it in the way that I am (although obviously friends have been very kind about it all). And there's a liberation in that. I might fail to sell it, or even fail to finish a complete chapter, but the time I spend on it isn't wasted, as long as I'm left feeling satisfied - light-hearted, even - after a day of messing about on it. If I can enjoy typing up my thoughts, going down a Google-hole about a story, or even just taking a walk and letting the ideas settle, then nothing has been lost. You can’t feel sad or guilty about time being ‘wasted’ when you’re getting lost in something that interests you.
I appreciate that writing a book is quite a specific project, but I know that many of you have side projects, or unpaid areas of your career that you’re trying to nurture. This month I would encourage you to think about the parts of your work that are just for you, and how you can really get the most fun out of them. Which aspects do you love? Are there ways to approach the parts you find challenging with a lighter attitude and a sense of fun or curiosity?
Let me know what you're working on - I'd love to hear about it.
Last month I was lucky enough to feature on Helen Hill's podcast The Last Rung. It was an absolute treat chatting to Helen about self-employment, half-arsing things and career porn.
I was also interviewed for a Marmalade Trust article about coping with loneliness when you're self-employed, and offered up a few tips.
Don’t forget, for just £1 a month you can come along to our accountability meetings (last Friday of the month, 11am British time) and meet the friendliest bunch of freelancers you’re ever likely to encounter. More info here. Plus, first visit is free, so what have you got to lose?